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In Argentina there are primaries

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In Argentina there are primaries

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Sunday in Argentina there are the primaries with which each party and coalition will choose the future candidate Presidential Elections scheduled for 22 October (the possible ballot will be held on 19 November). Voters and electric women they can choose between 22 different presidential formulas, i.e. pairs of presidents and vice-presidents. Most parties or coalitions have already concluded their internal debates and will present a single candidate: there will therefore be no competition within them. The main political formations of the country, Unión por la Patria of the current president, the moderate Peronist Alberto Fernández, and Juntos por el Cambio of the former president Mauricio Macri, will each present two possible presidential formulas.

In general, the primaries in Argentina are seen as one big national pre-election poll and will primarily be a test to understand the relative strength of each front.

The primary system was introduced in 2009 by then-President Cristina Kirchner after an unexpected defeat in the midterm elections. The system is called “mandatory simultaneous primaries” (“PASO”, in Spanish) and obliges all parties wishing to participate in the presidential elections to present at least one candidate. The system also obliges voters and female electors to vote: not voting without a valid justification risks leading to a fine. On August 13, more than 35 million people will be able to vote (of which more than 13 million only in Buenos Aires, the capital) and each political formation will have to obtain at least 1.5 percent of the votes in order to then present itself in the real elections. own.

There are five political formations that will surely exceed the threshold of 1.5 percent of the votes. Among these, there is the Peronist group headed by the current president Alberto Fernández and the vice president Cristina Fernández: Unión por la Patria. The coalition had initially announced the achievement of an internal agreement which had led the various areas to converge on the name of Sergio Massa, the current economy minister. Shortly afterwards, however, the more left wing announced its intention to present its own pre-candidate for the presidency, Juan Grabois.

Economy Minister Sergio Massa, Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 8, 2023 (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The current government arrives at PASO in a very delicate situation. Argentina has been going through a very serious economic crisis for years, with inflation that has exceeded 100 percent on an annual basis in recent months. Prices have almost doubled in the last year, the Argentine peso is worth less and less and almost 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. After the bankruptcy of 2001, which led the country to collapse, Argentina seems to live in a state of perpetual crisis, with some breathing space given above all by international loans, rather than by a real solution to the historic critical issues.

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– Read also: The economic crisis of Argentina

Sergio Massa is highly regarded by the International Monetary Fund, with whom the incumbent Economy Minister has signed a series of agreements for the repayment of the 45 billion dollar debt dating back to the large loan of 57 billion dollars (about 51 billion euros) that the Monetary Fund had made to Argentina in 2018 to avoid default.

The analysts they argue that, beyond the political question, the better Massa’s result in the primaries will be, the less economic uncertainty will be, at least in the immediate future. But they also argue that Massa is at a disadvantage due to his double role as minister and presidential candidate. His economic proposals for the future are linked to those applied during his own administration, and towards which there is general discontent: during his mandate, inflation rose from 71 percent to almost 120 percent every year. After promising that, if elected, he will be the president “who will defeat inflation” and after receiving numerous criticisms for that declaration, Massa had to return to the subject by admitting failure: “We have not managed to solve the problem of inflation . We have to admit it.”

Juntos por el Cambio, the right-wing coalition that has formed around former president Mauricio Macri, will present two possible presidential candidates: Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich. Larreta is the outgoing mayor of the city of Buenos Aires and is considered by many to be Macri’s natural successor.

Patricia Bullrich in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 24, 2023 (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Bullrich was defense minister in the Macri government, is positioned more to the right and during the electoral campaign she never missed an opportunity to differentiate herself from Larreta by presenting him as too moderate: “Dialogue does not take drug traffickers off the streets”, she said said for example. Order and security are central issues for the candidate who has often railed against the pickets and roadblocks that have affected the country in recent weeks, especially in the northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy where the original populations, in alliance with teachers, I’m protesting.

Libertad Avanza, a far-right and populist formation, presents itself with the man who founded it: Javier Milei, a deputy elected to Congress in 2021. Milei is an economist, he was the head of several private consultancy firms, he made radio host and taught at the university for more than twenty years. He was also economic advisor to Antonio Domingo Bussi, soldier during the dictatorship in Argentina (from 1976 to 1983), elected deputy in the late 1990s, then expelled from parliament and accused of crimes against humanity.

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– Read also: Javier Milei, the Argentine anarcho-capitalist who wants to be president

Among other things, Milei says that the state should only be concerned with administering justice and guaranteeing security, that the central bank steals money from Argentines through inflation and attacks constantly what he considers the “caste” of politics, that is, the traditional Argentine political formations. Despite having revised the tones and styles of the past, Milei continues to use aggressive populist rhetoric, he is a denier with respect to the numbers of missing and the climate crisis (i missing are the people who disappeared during the dictatorship, of whom there has been no more news). He is against abortion and feminism, he is in favor of the use of guns for all, he wants to reduce taxes, welfare programs and privatize public companies.

Juan Schiaretti, the current governor of Cordoba, also moves within the more moderate Peronism, but close to the center-right, who presents himself with the slogan “Hacemos por nuestro país”, “We do it for our country”.

Argentina’s left and far left are scattered among various proposals, but Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores-Unidad is the one that garners the greatest support: two candidates for the presidential elections, Myriam Bregman and Gabriel Solano, will present themselves. Finally, within the various left-wing formations, various newspapers report that for the first time a trans woman will also run for the presidency: Reina Ibañez.

Javier Milei to Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 7, 2023 (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

In general, the Argentine newspapers write that the electoral campaign was rather boring and that no announcements or memorable speeches were made by the candidates: «They smiled when they had to and said what was expected of them. Many choreographies, few dances», he has commented for example a few days ago the Clarion, the most important Argentine newspaper. Not even the slogans of the parties “have increased the pulse”, continues the Clarion: «There is the martial “You are the homeland, we will defend it” (by Sergio Massa, ndr), the evangelical “let’s make a change in our life” (by Larreta, ndr), the whimsical “if it’s not everything, it’s nothing” (by Bullrich, ndr), the naïf “let’s imagine a different Argentina” (by Milei, ndr), the picaresque “the exit is on the left” (by Myriam Bregman, ndr) or the elementary “minimum wage at 500,000 pesos” (from the far-left Anticapitalist Izquierda List, ndr)».

This «lukewarm» picture, continues the Clarion, seems to “fit well with the apathy or weariness that prevails among many voters and whose maximum expression was represented by the nearly five and a half million people who chose not to vote in the provincial elections” which took place during the year. Yet, concludes the newspaper, the stakes of the primaries and the forthcoming elections are significant: above all due to the gravity of the economic crisis. However, its outcome is very uncertain and unpredictable.

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In Argentina, survey companies are considered particularly unreliable. In general, however, it is possible to say that the government of Alberto Fernández is disliked by over 70 percent of the people and that the approval rating of Unión por la Patria’s elected officials and candidates is very low. Then there are the results of the provincial elections held this year: the governing Peronists, for example, lost control of three provinces they had governed for decades. While complex, the analysis of the vote in the provinces also showed that the candidates supported by Larreta fared better than those supported by Bullrich.

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, center, in a bar in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 4, 2023 (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The polls published in the last few weeks they say that there is a difference in favor of Juntos por el Cambio over Unión por la Patria just above the margin of error. Unión por la Patria, around 30 percent and with Massa decidedly ahead of the other candidate within the area. In the internal opposition to the right, various analyzes give Patricia Bullrich above Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, even if the distance between them has gradually narrowed. And there are polls that also say the opposite.

With Javier Milei there is a very particular situation. In general, there is enough agreement among the various polls: it is given around 20 percent. But even in the face of this scenario, analysts have doubts about its real electoral potential. At provincial elections, Milei’s top-performing candidates barely reached double-digits. Based on these results, pollsters think Milei’s numbers in the polls equate to some sort of angry reaction from people due to disenchantment with mainstream politicians, but that won’t necessarily materialize at the time of the vote.

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